Spouse battering against men sees steep rise

Most men in Hong Kong feel ashamed of speaking out against spousal abuse

It was early in the morning and Ben, who would identify himself only by his first name, was about to take his seven-year-old daughter to the bathroom before she got dressed for school.

Suddenly, his wife yelled at him, "How dare you harass your own daughter!" Feeling shocked and enraged, Ben shot back, "I am her father, what on earth are you thinking?"

Immediately Ben's wife grabbed a clock just beside her and threw it right at him, hitting his forehead.

While he sat on his bed waiting for his daughter to get dressed, blood oozed out from the wound and streamed across the bed sheet, his daughter's schoolbag and uniform.

Although Ben is now 60 years old and retired, the grievous experience of being assaulted by his wife decades ago is still fresh in his memory.

According to the Social Welfare Department, there were more than 500 spouse battering cases in which men were abused over the first ten months of 2013. The number had outstripped the 434 cases recorded in the previous year.

Experts have pointed to a lack of willingness by men in Hong Kong to report spousal abuse against them to the police or social workers.

Mr Leung Chi-keung, chairperson of Hong Kong Men's Association, told The Young Reporter that numerous such cases had gone unreported.

"Those cases will never come to light if nobody is willing to report them," said Mr Leung, adding that "the majority of the assaulted men today were born in the 1980s."

Mr Wallace Tsang, a fieldwork supervisor and a social work lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, said that most men would feel shame if other people – especially social workers or the police – knew about their disputes with their spouses.

"The perceived gender roles in traditional Chinese society discourage men from reporting spouse battering cases to the police," said Mr Tang.

As cases of spouse battering against men have increased in recent years, some lawmakers are concerned about the city's shortage of shelters for men.

"Some men told me that when they called the Caritas Family Crisis Support Centre to see if there was a place for temporary stay, they were told that rooms for men were full while there were still empty beds for women," said Islands District Councilor Mr Bill Tang Ka-piu.

"It indicated that men's need for shelter has proliferated. Sometimes it may be greater than women's."

Mr Tang called on the government to set aside more support and resources to assist male victims of domestic violence.

In early 2012, the government subsidised Hong Kong Men's Association to set up a domestic abuse hotline for men. However, according to the association, few people are aware of its existence.

Besides the lack of public knowledge of the hotline, Mr Leung spoke of a male caller's complaint against a hotline responder who kept talking about what he had done wrong during the entire conversation.

Mr Tsang said that volunteers and social workers staffing the hotline needed more professional training, as social workers sometimes treated their clients with double standards due to gender stereotypes.

"There is a need to generate publicity (for the hotline). We need to let them (male victims) know where they can seek help," said Mr. Henry Chan, director of international and public affairs of Hong Kong Men's Association.

 

Reported by Karen Leung 

Edited by Celine Ge 

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